Checking Out for a Long Weekend, A History Boy, 27/07/2016

Today, I'm vanishing from the internet for five days. GF and I are going to Eclipse Festival to enjoy the woods, dance to ridiculously intense and funky music, and read under our makeshift gazebo for the holiday long weekend.

I’m bringing a few books in the same backpack as my clothes, because I’m kind of mad. There’s For Marx, the collection of Louis Althusser essays that I haven’t quite finished reading. 

There’s Etienne Balibar’s We the People of Europe, an appropriate book for these post-Brexit times. I also plan on using it for Utopias, as I’m interested in exploring Balibar’s approach to pragmatism as a political philosophy. And depending on how much useful material I find there, I’ll track down his 2010s work on the concepts of citizenship and culture.

I've already read his book on Spinoza, which had a lot of fascinating ideas from a perspective I hadn’t quite worked through before. My route to Spinoza was through Gilles Deleuze and Antonio Negri, so Balibar’s take was another wonderful angle.

There’s Let the Great World Spin, a curious book by Colum McCann. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve returned to Irish literature, a tradition that has always been important to me. That’s true for several reasons. 

Growing up in Newfoundland and having a close family member born and raised in Belfast, Ireland is one of the two European countries (along with Italy, of course) that I have strong patriotic feelings about. I read a wonderfully cheeky article in the Irish Times that imagined a fascinating future for the islands. 

Fintan O’Toole called it SCINI, but on the walk home from work yesterday afternoon, I imagined a bright future for (official name) The Federated Celtic Republics of Ireland, Scotland, and Ulster. Along with a BBC shared between the Celtic Republics and Britain, enriched with the contribution of Irish money and talent. 

Talent like the novelist Colum McCann, who I’m still reading after that odd tangent. It’s one of those bewitching polyphonic narratives that I love reading (and writing), twisting through different perspectives on the same story. Exploring the world through many monads at once, if you’ll let me get a little Leibnizian.

The musicality of his prose is something I’ve always enjoyed in Irish literature, and which I think Irish-inflected voices inject best into the English language. It’s what I love most about James Joyce. A trilling dance that can suddenly flick a spray of acid into your gaily laughing mouth.

Black American authors can inject a similar musicality into English prose, as well as the few African authors I’ve read in English. 

I’m looking forward to immersion in the artistic and social atmosphere of Eclipse Festival  as well. I love the idealism and joy of hippie culture, even though their political values have become corrupted and misdirected by a complex collision of forces and corporate deceptions. But I still see potential in that community to harness the power they used to wield.

But there’s a lot I’m skipping out on this weekend. And I don’t just mean work. 

I won’t be writing the blog for one. But I hope to have plenty of ideas after this weekend from reading in the gazebo, listening to music, absorbing plenty of utopian, fantastical art to fill its space. 

I won’t see Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech (though I’ve seen enough of the Democratic National Convention to know that they’re bringing out enough living expressions of hope and optimism that I have no doubt they’ll win by a landslide). 

But I’ll watch it on youtube after I get home, to see if she can pull together the campaign of her life to stop Donald Trump from destroying American democracy with his spectacular dictatorship. And if her coalition continues to contain the multitudes of liberatory forces – Black Lives, Occupy values, the resurgence of social democracy in America – that will win her the election and curb her worst impulses. 

And I want to see the United States take the subversive attacks from Russia seriously, and fight by living up to the ideals of their nation. As well as funding and supporting democrats in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. 

Polyphonous voices. Each perspective singular, a unique value. That’s the concept of democracy, and it’s what drives my own work in art and politics. 

See you next week.

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